Entrepreneurs have hit out at a move which has halved the amount of support due from state agency Enterprise Estonia for tourism businesses, a few days before the latest round was to open to applicants.
Businessman Kuldar Leis says the application round, for new projects, has seen a lot of preparation from businesses, with 150-200 firms planning to apply, but the amount up for distribution has been cut to €2.1 million, from the original €4.1 million.
"It's outrageous, entrepreneurs have been working hard for this," Leis said, adding that with the funds to be doled out on a first-come-first-served basis, smaller projects might get precedence simply because their applications can be entered more quickly when the application round opens, at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Minister for Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem (EKRE) says the funds were cut as a way of supporting the tourism sector effectively.
Siem said: "At the end of December, the government directed €9.9 million towards crisis aid, both for support in Harju and Ida-Viru counties, towards accommodation and catering businesses. It was estimated that the amount of funds to be allocated to support of the tourism sector was not large, meaning it is extremely important that funds can be allocated in a way so that supporting the sector would be both as effective as possible and done in the best possible way."
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications says that the amount of aid removed from the upcoming application round will be distributed in the next round, which the ministry says should take place later this year.
Businesses are not satisfied with this, however.
Kuldar Leis said that, unlike some other measures, the application round should not focus on support for the survival of tourism companies, but on development in future directions.
Enterprise Estonia itself says the support is provided for the development of additional, relevant services, digital solutions or developing a unique technological solution.
Sums range from €20,000 to €200,000, and projects must be implemented within two years of being granted the funds.
Editor: Andrew Whyte